The Mighty Thor by Walter Simonson Vol. 3 is a masterpiece of comic storytelling. Simonson is the undisputed master at portraying Thor, for my money- he's been considered one of the best writer/ artists to handle the character for years- but revisiting these stories (and in some cases reading for the first time- I've never before sampled his entire run) just cemented that reputation for me. Not to mention the difference between the portrayal as depicted here and the stuff Marvel is currently putting out- there's just no comparison.
This is volume three so we're dealing with the aftermath of the great war with Surtur that devastated Asgard- and continues to reverberate throughout the Nine Worlds. Thor has a scheming Loki to deal with, as usual, but here the twist is that the Prince of Lies has teamed up with Lorelei, whose skills of seduction are peerless- and armed with a long-lost love potion she proceeds to make Thor her willing slave. The object of course is to put Loki on the throne now that Odin is missing. The arrival of Sif throws a wrench in the plan though, and from there Thor regains his senses and moves on to his next objective- venturing into Hel to retrieve the mortal souls stolen by Malekith the accursed.
Hela, the queen of the underworld, will not yield those souls easily however, and this is the heart of the book. Thor ventures into Hel with Balder the Brave and the einherjar- the warriors of Valhalla- on a mission that he may not return from. And the cost of his sojourn is staggering. I won't give anything away but Simonson knew how to put Thor through the wringer. This was absolutely gripping, and the denouement- the last stand at the bridge of Gjallerbru- is one of the great moments in comics.
This is mythic stuff. Simonson draws the definitive Thor from my perspective- he's majestic and awe- inspiring, and at times vulnerable too. You can just tell this was a labor of love all the way around, from the writing and art to even the lettering- everything comes together to make this a comics masterpiece.
Not that everything is perfect. Some of the subplots- the love triangle of sorts between Thor, Sif and Beta Ray Bill did nothing for me and there are some other story beats that fell flat. But the theme here is myth and going big, and it succeeds. Asgard feels real and better realized than I've ever seen it portrayed- and this collection also includes the miniseries where Balder must venture into the land of the frost giants to save Karnilla the Norn Queen.
I've always liked Karnilla, and her imperiousness and nasty temper juxtaposed with Balder's nobility are a blast to read. What makes them a couple? That's always been the question with those two, and Karnilla is badass in her own right. This is the deepest and most impressive rendering of Karnilla (or Balder for that matter) that I've seen.
So the upshot is- if you want to see probably the best imagining of Thor in the comics, or just some really good stories- this whole series by Walter Simonson is a must- get.
Amora the Enchantress seems a lot deeper here than usual, but again that seems to be Simonson's forte- making the characters feel more real. Also Amora and Heimdall- that was interesting!
"A love for Loki the heartless will eventually destroy any woman," says Amora as she plots to take down Lorelei (who just happens to be her sister).
Amora kissing Thor to try to break Lorelei's enchantment cracked me up.
The architecture is amazing- it feels Norse, or at least a convincing version that seems to match the flair of the series. And we see Thor's dwelling place- something I don't remember seeing before. I love all the dragon heads and leering visages.
Was Thor right to risk the einherjar's souls on their journey to Hela's realm? I'm not sure...
And Balder the Brave tells Thor what he is asking of all of them, and it's a powerful scene.